August 5, 2005
TORONTO (CP) -- Jason Allison will launch his comeback in Toronto and Tie Domi will stay with the Maple Leafs despite a more lucrative offer from Pittsburgh.
The NHL club announced the free-agent signings Friday.
In taking a chance on Allison with a one-year deal, the Leafs get a six-foot-three centre who because of injuries and the lockout has hardly played any games in three years.
But Allison, 30, could be the club's No. 2 centre if he regains the form that saw him amass 74 points in 73 games in 2001-2002 with the Los Angeles Kings and a career-high 95 in 2000-2001 with the Boston Bruins, who he represented in the 2001 all-star game. He was third in the league in power-play points and fifth in overall scoring that season.
He last played in 2002-2003, getting into 26 games with the Kings before what he describes as ""a couple of minor whiplash incidents"" that derailed his promising career.
""I feel great and excited,"" Allison, who grew up in Toronto, said after accepting a No. 41 sweater from GM John Ferguson.
He admitted the time away from hockey has been frustrating.
""Anytime someone can't do what they love to do, it's tough on them sometimes,"" he said. ""When you're out for a period of time like that, it makes you appreciate everything a lot more and makes you excited to get back at it.
""I'm just ecstatic to be here and ready to go.""
Allison would have had to convince the Leafs he's physically sound.
""It was a long battle but there's nothing structurally wrong, which is great news,"" he said. ""It's not something that's expected to be a problem moving forward.""
Ferguson loaded the contract with bonus clauses that could see the centre earn upwards of $4.5 million if he regains the form he flashed years ago.
""We anticipate he'll return to form in Toronto and do what he needs to do and get his career back on track,"" Ferguson said. ""There's an assumption of risk in any kind of signing _ this is a contact sport.
""We've got a motivated player who wants to be here and wants to perform here. Our interests converged _ he's here to win and we're happy to have him.""
Allison has played 486 career NHL games for Washington, Boston and Los Angeles. He has 137 goals, 288 assists and 365 penalty minutes.
Drafted 17th overall by Washington in 1993, he was Canadian major junior player of the year in 1994 and helped Canada win world junior championships in 1994 and 1995.
Domi agreed to a $2.5-million, two-year deal even though Pittsburgh offered him $4.5 million over three years.
""I've been here a long time,"" said the five-foot-10 right winger, who has spent the last nine of his 14 years in the league as the on-ice bodyguard for his Leafs teammates. ""Change is tough, change is very tough.
""I just couldn't see myself moving on at the last minute. And John was nice enough to have a last meeting with me. (Thursday morning) I really thought I was moving on. It was difficult to swallow. When I saw how much John wanted me, he really stepped up to the plate for me.
""It was not about the money. The money's been good to me for the last 10 years. So I really thought with my heart, not with my wallet.""
Domi is third on the league's all-time penalty minutes list with 3,406. He trails only Dave (Tiger) Williams (3,966) and Dale Hunter (3,565).
""We value his services,"" said Ferguson.
Domi has 99 goals and 130 assists in 943 games. He had a career-high 29 points in 2002-2003. In his last season, 2003-2004, he had seven goals and 13 assists.